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FEMA wants bulletproof vests for firefighters

3:35 PM, Jan 2, 2014   |    comments
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CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- When firefighters and paramedics from Fire Station 18 in Clay County respond to a mass shooting or bombing or similar dangerous situation, when they get there, they wait at a safe distance until given the all clear from police making sure a shooter or shooters have been caught or killed.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is now recommending bulletproof vests for firefighters and paramedics so they can save more lives during mass shootings or bombing situations. The federal government says that wait could cost a wounded person their life.

The recent mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard  in September resulted in 12 people being killed and three injured. The gunman, Aaron Alexis was killed by police an hour after the shooting began. That is when firefighters and paramedics were able to move in to help.

Studies of events like this conclude getting to the injured sooner could make a difference. That's why FEMA is recommending firefighters and paramedics go in with police immediately wearing protective gear.

Clay County Deputy Fire Chief David Motes supports the idea.

"There is much to be gained, there is much to be risked. In these situations you can make an immediate impact on saving a life. It can make a difference in life or death in how fast we get those people out and get to the hospital," he said.

Clay County Fire Rescue has three paramedics with protective gear and are trained to go with the sheriff's department's SWAT team on dangerous calls. Motes said costs for the protective gear and training for 180 firefighters in the county is a concern, and it could costs over $1,000 per firefighter. Paying for it could be problematic.

Meanwhile, Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, said he has reservations about his members going into a scene before it is cleared by police.

"It is not a bad idea to have that kind of protection for firefighters, but I think some standard operating procedures would have to be developed to make sure we stay safe," he said. "Utmost importance is protecting the men and women who protect the citizens. If they become the victim, they become part of the problem and we don't want that to occur. "

Clay County resident Ralph Jones, a former volunteer firefighter and deputy, supports first responders having  bulletproof vests.

"I think it is a great idea. If it can safe one life it is well worth the money."

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